A Typical Cruising Day

Dinette table in cruising mode

Welcome to a sneak peek into the cockpit, command central aboard Ortolan.  This shot shows the dinette fulfilling its daytime role as nav station. We have roughly two different types of traveling days; one is when we are in the ICW traveling through the dredged channel in rivers, sounds, bays and man -made land cuts and the second is non-ICW travel which was the 622 miles before reaching ICW Mile 0  at Norfolk, VA and any day we “go outside”.

The primary difference is that with non-ICW days we use the laptop as a backup chartplotter to the one installed at the helm. If the main chartplotter were to misbehave, we would have the laptop already running.  I generally keep an eye on it and make sure it jives with the main.  The ICW is well marked and getting the laptop up and running wouldn’t need to happen in a blink.

A typical ICW day flows something like this:
Breakfast before departing (most nights we are at anchor) around 8 – 8:30am. Until recently we had to run the heat to warm up but the Florida mornings are warm, a balmy 50 so far. Russ is at the bow using the electric anchor winch to raise the anchor as I man the helm and move the boat in the proper directions based on hand signals. No shouting allowed so we have devised our own signals when we can’t hear the other person easily. No, we don’t use THAT one.  The anchor rinsed and secured, moving ahead slowly, we head off.

I am in charge of the log book and will make the “start of the day” entries as soon as we are underway. Then it’s on to washing the dishes, being careful to conserve water.  We carry 136 gallons of water, 2 tanks in each hull but getting water only occurs at marinas- either when you fuel up or spend the night. We don’t do much of either.

Our typically cruising speed, when not greatly affected by currents is 7 knots (8.06 mph). When adversely affected by current or tides, which in Florida’s ICW change frequently with all the inlets, our speed drops dramatically.

Electronics are great, but nothing beats paper for lack of susceptibility to malfunctioning. Therefore no sailor worth his salt will be without paper charts. For the ICW we use a great flip style one that shows pretty much only the ICW, marks every five miles and contains notes along the side about bridges that need to open for boats and the schedule, if any. Bridges- well that’s another blog entry by itself. We also have another booklet that lists, mile by mile: good anchorages with comments, marinas, bridges with opening notes if they are ones that open, inlet info, and other helpful notes about transiting the ICW. I follow along with the two booklets while Russ runs the boat. I take over from time to time.

Lunch is eaten underway and we take turns so that one person is always at the helm. The auto-pilot is often keeping the boat on course but in ICW close quarters, taking one’s eye off the road for too long can lead to running aground or into something.  Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but some sections of the waterway are very narrow, with barely room for two boats to pass. Most of it is not like that but keeping in the channel is important.
Most days we arrive at our destination by 5pm. Dropping the anchor is generally successful on the first try. Ours is oversized; dragging is near the top of the “never want to do” list.

I finish up the log, having made notes about our day, what we saw, who we met and other things we want to remember. We also record mileage, engine hours, fuel consumption and where we end up each night, both by name and the latitude and longitude.

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